• The More Important A-List That We All Need To Be Talking About

    It’s that time of the year when all the awards shows are happening. The presenters and awardees always feature past, current, and future “A-Listers.” Right?! And to be invited to these events and the lavish after-parties is considered one of the year’s highlights for many.

    For the rest of us, it’s just entertainment.

    And while it’s unlikely that any of us will ever be on the Hollywood A-List, walk down the red carpet, or have our own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, there is something we can take away from all of this about who and what is important in our own lives.

    As a therapist in L.A. for more than 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most incredibly talented people who appear in front of and behind the camera. Some perform on the stage. Several are famous. Most are not.

    And while all our attention and adoration can be very exciting, there can be a dark underbelly to this business. For some, their self-esteem is actually based upon whether or not they are currently on the traditional Hollywood A-list and where they perceive they are ranked on that list. In psychology, we use the term “self-esteem by proxy” to describe a situation where our ability to feel good about ourselves is dependent on how others see us. This is not the key to happiness.

    In short, it seems to me that too many live and die emotionally by where they see themselves on the Hollywood social ladder.

    What We Can Learn from Hollywood

    Let’s borrow from the idea of the Hollywood list, and create our own Personal A-list to enhance the quality of our own lives.

    We’re not going to place people on our list based on their popularity in terms of social status. Instead, we’re going to create our own personal Walk of Fame, but it’s not going to be based on popularity. We’ll ask ourselves some questions that are far more meaningful than celebrity or social status.

    But first, let’s explore why this can be helpful in your life. Your life matters and so does your own list.


    Why Your List Matters

    One of the lessons I’ve learned in life is that it’s important to count my blessings. Who am I grateful for? Do I express my gratitude? Because what really matters to me is the quality of the relationships I have with people and they have with me.

    The Hollywood version of the A-list is based on social status. It got me thinking about my own colleagues, friends, and family. Who in my life would I consider my own personal A-listers? Who are the ones I can trust? Who are the ones who are there when I need them? Who are the people who really support me to be my best? Who are at the top of their game? Who are “bankable” or count-on-able?

    And so, several years ago, I created my own list.  It started with some of the questions you see below and grew over time.

    Because life brings changes and new circumstances, and people into and out of our lives, I find it helpful from time to time, to ask myself the following questions about who is currently in my life and what they mean to me:

    • Who is the first person I think of to share good news with?
    • Who has my implicit trust? Who do I trust with ANYTHING?
    • Who am I comfortable with?
    • Who feels safe?
    • Who would I like to be closer to?
    • Who do I feel I need to distance myself from?
    • Who do I need to call in a crisis, whether it’s a relationship issue or if the kitchen
    • Who do I not feel safe sharing with?
    • Who, if anyone is downright toxic for me?

    Purposely thinking about this from time to time gives me a fresh perspective and helps me get a better idea of what relationships may need more of my attention or less. It’s made a big difference in the quality of my life because there is only so much time in the day or a week.

    I also do this exercise with many of my clients. When first doing this, they almost always tell me how much writing down their personal A-list helps them figure out who really matters in their lives. Not from a snooty perspective, but so much more importantly, from the viewpoint of who and why certain people matter to them.

    If you’re interested, try this simple two-part exercise.

    Your A-list

    Step 1: Who Do You Trust?

    Since a basic sense of trust is the cornerstone of the most fulfilling relationships, let’s start with your “A-list of Trust.”  If you think about it, recognizing who we trust in our lives is a great premise to start with.

    Begin thinking about all the people in your life and the degree to which you trust them (or not). Place anybody on your list that you want: your partner, family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances that may have some significance in your life. It can be people you like very much or maybe not at all.

    Consider who do you trust?

    Start by asking yourself some of the questions you just read above. Feel free to add any questions of your own!

    One more thing to consider: Be honest with yourself. Are you putting people on your Personal A-list (that also includes your B – F list) because you really trust them the most? Or are you naming those you feel that you should trust? Maybe someone you feel should be an “A” is really only a “C” when you really think about it.

    The only right answer is what is really true for you.

    Step 2: Start Your Personal A-List

    On the worksheet provided here, you will see five columns labeled, A, B, C, D, and F. (You can download and print this PDF, and then fill it out.)

    -Click Here To Download PDF-

    Once you have downloaded it, go ahead and print out the PDF form.

    Now begin to place the people in your life under each column where you think most accurately reflects where you see them in your life.

    Categorize the people in your life in relation to the level of trust you have with them. The people in the A column would be those who you love and trust the most. Conversely, someone who is toxic and doesn’t belong in your life would be an F. Hopefully you don’t have any of those, but there may be one or two. Most everyone else will fall into the middle three lists: either B, C, or a few Ds.

    Use the guidelines below to help you:
    A = I feel safe enough to share at least 90% or more of my most vulnerable thoughts and feelings with them.
    B = I feel safe enough to share at least 70% of my inner world with them.
    C = I feel safe enough to share about half of my inner world with them.
    D = I don’t feel very safe around them and don’t want to share with them.
    F = I don’t feel safe around them at all. In addition, they have proven actually to be toxic for me to be around. I want them out of my life.

    This can be a very enlightening experience as you think through who you spend your time with. You may discover you don’t feel as strongly for some people as you thought you did, or that some relationships have a higher rank than you previously gave them credit for.

    Your list is likely to change over time. Some people will remain as As. Some will move from B to A. Some will go from C to F. Over a lifetime, people may move up and down your list. But, for right now, we just want to take a “snapshot in time” of where you see these people in your life right now.

    Other Lists!

    You can also use this exercise for different reasons. A friend of mine went on a string of rather lousy vacations. He was frustrated. He called me and we talked about it.

    At first, we focused on where he went. That didn’t seem to matter.

    Then I asked him who went on these vacations with him. That rang a bell for him! He thought about it and decided to develop his own Personal Vacation A-list! This helped him figure out pretty quickly who he really wanted to vacation with and who he didn’t.

    Again, not from the perspective of being a snob, but emphasizing who he truly wanted to spend his precious vacation time with. Now, he looks forward to his vacations because he’s excluded the perpetually loud drunk and now includes people who are more fun to be with.

    Something To Remember

    The number of people on your Personal A-list is not so important. The quality of your relationships is what really matters.

    Personal A-list

    I hope that you found this exercise helpful in terms of providing some insight into your current relationships. Remember, this is your movie – your life. You get to decide who the actors are going to be. You decide who will be your co-lead, supporting actors, and actresses, and most importantly remember that you are the screenwriter and director at all times!

    If you are struggling in one or more relationships and not quite sure how to deal with certain people, or where they fit in your life, give me a call. I’d be more than happy to help you out with this. It’s likely that we can help you discover some new perspectives that can improve the quality of your life!

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